UCP Leader Jason Kenney made a stop in Red Deer Saturday afternoon. He announced new policies and then met with supporters later in the afternoon. Robin Grant/Red Deer Express

Supporters rally for Jason Kenney as UCP leader stops in Red Deer

Kenney promises equalization reform, stopping ‘Trudeau-Notley’ payroll hike, trade, economic mobility

Conservative Leader Jason Kenney made some new election promises during his stop in Red Deer Saturday afternoon.

These specific measures in what he called his nine-point plan would give Alberta more control and ‘a fair deal in the federation.’

One such point involves equalization reform, which he said would use the, “Prospect of a referendum on equalization as leverage for federal action to complete a coastal pipeline.”

If elected, he said, his government would demand reforms to the current ‘unfair formula,’ such as excluding non-renewable revenues from the calculation of fiscal capacity.

This would also include penalties for provinces with policies that “artificially reduce their fiscal capacities,” such as Quebec and Nova Scotia, which have a fracking ban and don’t develop their natural gas, he said.

“Quebec learned a long time ago that, in this country, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. They made a lot of noise and they made a lot of demands and they have had a lot of referendums and that’s why they have got the best deal in the country of all the provinces.

“I think it’s time we took a page out of Quebec’s playbook — not on separatism — but on a forceful assertion of our fight for fairness.”

The nine-point plan announced Saturday also included converting the Canada health transfer and Canada social transfer to tax points for the provinces.

Kenney said he would stop the Trudeau-Notley payroll tax hike, seek what he called fairness in employment insurance, as well as create ‘pre-approved, guaranteed land corridors for Canadian products to each market.’

On the topic of the Red Deer Regional Hospital, Kenney said the UCP government would be committed to expanding and modernizing the hospital. He criticized the NDP government for taking the hospital off the priority infrastructure list.

“When it comes to determining what are the key healthcare infrastructure priorities, that should be done in a non-political way based on the local needs and the age of the hospital and the pressure on that local hospital.

“We would make an objective assessment about which of Alberta’s hospitals have to come first on the list. But Red Deer hospital would absolutely be on our healthcare infrastructure list and we would proceed forward with that as soon as possible.”

Red Deer’s hospital was removed from the Alberta Health Services priority list in 2017 but has since been added back on.

In response to a question about concern over whether the Conservative party would cut healthcare funding, Kenney said he has signed the United Conservative Health-Care Guarantee. He said this ensures the Conservative party would maintain or increase current levels of healthcare funding and maintain the publicly funded, universally accessible system Alberta currently has.

Kenney also addressed some of the controversies his party faces at the moment, specifically related to Calgary pastor Jeremy Wong, a party candidate, who has been accused of allegedly supporting gay conversion therapy in the past.

“I think this is just a distraction. It’s much ado about nothing,” he said. “We oppose anything that would be coercive … Mr. Wong has been clear. He said he repudiated conversion therapy, he has never been involved in it. I think Albertans want to talk about jobs, the economy and pipelines.”

After the press conference, Kenney met with roughly 1,000 supporters at UCP candidate for Red Deer-North Adriana LaGrange’s campaign office. There, the UCP leader pushed his position on getting Trudeau to complete a coastal pipeline.

“If we do not get completion of a coastal pipeline, we will give Albertans an opportunity on voting to remove equalization from the Canadian constitution.”

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